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The Council of Ancyra - A.D. 314

Edited from a variety of translations (mentioned in the preface) by H. R. Percival

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The Council of Ancyra.

a.d. 314.

Emperors.--Constantine and Licinius.

Elenchus.

Historical Note.

The Canons with the Ancient Epitome and Notes.

Excursus to Canon XIX on Digamy.

Historical Note.

Soon after the death of the Emperor Maximin, [116] a council was held at Ancyra, the capital of Galatia. Only about a dozen bishops were present, and the lists of subscriptions which are found appended to the canons are not to be depended on, being evidently in their present form of later authorship; as has been shewn by the Ballerini. If we may at all trust the lists, it would seem that nearly every part of Syria and Asia Minor was represented, and that therefore the council while small in numbers was of considerable weight. It is not certain whether Vitalis, (bishop of Antioch,) presided or Marcellus, who was at the time bishop of Ancyra. The honour is by the Libellus Synodicus assigned to the latter.

The disciplinary decrees of this council possess a singular interest as being the first enacted after the ceasing of the persecution of the Christians and as providing for the proper treatment of the lapsed. Recently two papyri have been recovered, containing the official certificates granted by the Roman government to those who had lapsed and offered sacrifice. These apostates were obliged to acknowledge in public their adhesion to the national religion of the empire, and then were provided with a document certifying to this fact to keep them from further trouble. Dr. Harnack (Preussische Jahrb├╝cher) writing of the yielding of the lapsed says:

"The Church condemned this as lying and denial of the faith, and after the termination of the persecution, these unhappy people were partly excommunicated, partly obliged to submit to severe discipline. Who would ever suppose that the records of their shame would come doom to our time?--and yet it has actually happened. Two of these papers have been preserved, contrary to all likelihood, by the sands of Egypt which so carefully keep what has been entrusted to them. The first was found by Krebs in a heap of papyrus, that had come to Berlin; the other was found by Wessely in the papyrus collection of Archduke Rainer. I, Diogenes, have constantly sacrificed and made offerings, and have eaten in your presence the sacrificial meat, and I petition you to give me a certificate.' Who to-day, without deep emotion, can read this paper and measure the trouble and terror of heart under which the Christians of that day collapsed?"

[116] Not "Maximilian," as in the English translation of Hefele's History of the Councils, Vol. I., p. 199 (revised edition). Maximian died in 310, Galerius in 311, Maxentius in 312, and Diocletian in 313.

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